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Canoe slalom

For centuries, canoes were used as a means of transport on a daily basis in North America, Siberia and Greenland. Primarily a tool for hunting and fishing, it first became a sport in the mid-19th century in Great Britain.

Brief overview of the rules

Canoe and kayak races feature on the Olympic Games programme, each with their own specific rules. Canoers kneel in the boat and use a single-blade paddle on one side at a time, whereas kayakers are seated and used a double-bladed paddle.

Slalom races take place on a white-water course, with traditional natural river courses giving way to artificial courses.  Competitors have to navigate boats through a course of gates (18 to 25) in the fastest time possible, taking care not to incur penalties for missing or touching gates. These races put athletes’ concentration, reactions and technique to the test.

Olympic history

Canoe slalom made its debut at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and became a permanent Olympic fixture at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. European countries dominate canoe slalom, with no less than 90% of Olympic slalom medals under their belt. For instance, Europe missed out on a mere three men’s medals between the Atlanta 1996 Olympics and the Rio 2016 Games.

Events in 2024

Canoe slalom events will take place between the 27th of July and the 5th of August.


  • Kayak (women’s / men’s)
  • Canoe Single (women’s / men’s)
  • Extreme Canoe Slalom (women’s / men’s)

Venue in 2024

International organisation

International Canoe Federation (ICF)

© Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

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